First-year program helps adjustment process


For almost all first-year students attending college is an adjustment. Some of the adjustments involve getting used to living away from home, exposure to a larger student body, managing class schedules and effective time management.

A resource that is helping first-year students adjust is NKU R.O.C.K.S. (Responsibility, Opportunity, Community, Knowledge and Success), aimed at helping African American students navigate through their new college environment.

Aisha Haggard a senior majoring in English, said she really gained a lot from her NKU R.O.C.K.S. experience when she started NKU four years ago.
“It felt like I had a family away from home,” Haggard said. “When school officially started I already knew 50 people.”

Deborah Strahorn, coordinator for the African American Student Affairs department, is also the coordinator for NKU R.O.C.K.S. and said recruitment of high school students starts as early as the winter months when she sends out mailings to area high schools in Ohio and Kentucky.

One week prior to the official start of school a group of African American students, this year there are 62 freshmen in the program, who sign-up for R.O.C.K.S. spend that week on campus, away from home learning their way around and about college life.

They move into dorms for one week, they tour the campus and they learn to network with other people in the program. At the end of that week the students spend a night at Camp Joy in Clarksville, Ohio where they participate in exercises, seminars and workshops.

“The walls start falling,” Strahorn said. “It gets pretty emotional. You can’t be cute and cool in the woods.”
According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, research shows that many of the colleges and universities with high black student graduation rates have orientation and retention programs to help black students adjust to the culture of predominantly white campuses, and that mentoring programs for first-year African American students have proven to be been successful in retaining students.

Christina Rolfe, a freshman from Cincinnati majoring in elementary education, said that R.O.C.K.S. made her feel more comfortable.
“It was more like home,” Rolfe said. “Because I already knew people and I knew my way around.”
Camey Marshall, a freshman from Cincinnati, said she feels like she has a new family.
“Even though we left the nest, we got to build a new one,” Marshall said.

“We are a year-long support system,” Strahorn said. “We focus on them and who they are.”

Talia Anderson, a freshman from Elizabethtown, Kentucky majoring in pre-med biology, said that it is truly a support group.
“If you have trouble, like grades or keeping up, or if you have questions you can go to anyone in the program,” Anderson said. “Any of the mentors are there for you and the help and support is sincere too.”

Natalia Weekly, a freshman from Louisville majoring in counseling and human services, said, “You can talk to anyone in the program.”
Haggard said she became a mentor in her sophomore because the program gave her confidence and equipped her with skills like being on time, doing homework, being in class and being involved in campus activities.